Tech Illiterate Judge Tossed From Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 15, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You know the expression that when you are in the public eye, you live in a fishbowl? Well, sometimes that fishbowl may be a wineglass.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi may feel that way now. Recently unsealed transcripts show she was having trouble on the bench, but an old news video shows that her problems may have started years ago at the bar.

Minaldi was removed from a case for a series of mistakes in a criminal case, according to news reports. Court transcripts show that the judge was confused about preliminary instructions to the jury, including the burden of proof, presumption of innocence, and certain duties of jurors. 

The judge admitted that she forgot some of them, and asked the prosecutor to read them to the jury. The prosecutor and public defender then asked for a mistrial, but the judge would not.

"I think this is one of those cases that there's no reason to try it more than one time," she said on Feb. 2, 2016. "I think it will make all of us insane."

Technology Hang-Up: What's a Drop-Down Menu?

When testimony resumed, Minaldi seemed to lose focus about the meaning of a "drop-down menu" on a computer program. She asked the witness three times to explain it, then expressed her frustration.

"THE COURT: I have no idea what that means. If I don't understand it --
"THE WITNESS: A drop down ---
"THE COURT: No offense; but if I don't understand it, I don't think anybody else is going to understand it.... I have no idea what y'all are talking about."

The next day, a new judge said Minaldi was unable to be present but offered no explanation. The court then granted a mistrial.

The DUI Didn't Help Her Case

Minaldi has had problems on the bench in the past. In March, she was removed mid-trial from a case against a Louisiana sheriff and subordinates. The court gave no explanation.

No reports referenced any conflicts in the case, but Minaldi had a previous run-in with police in 2014. The judge was arrested for driving with an open container of wine. A police cam showed she may have been intoxicated.

An arresting officer told her to get out of the car, but she said she was a judge and that the officer couldn't order her to get out the car. The officer then arrested her and began to read her Miranda rights.

"I know that ... Do you think I don't know that?!"

Minaldi paid a fine for the open container violation, and later pled guilty to driving while under the influence.

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